Professor Mary Dixon-Woods, recently appointed RAND Professor of Health Services Research at Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research (CCHSR) and based at the Primary Care Unit, challenged a recent claim that medical error constitutes the 3rd leading cause of death in the US.
As reported in The Guardian, Professor Dixon-Woods and Kaveh G. Shojania – both editors of BMJ Quality and Safety – responded to a widely-reported BMJ article by Marty Makary and Michael Daniel putting medical error just below heart disease and cancer as a cause of death.
The rebuttal points out no formal methodology was used for generating the estimate of over 250,000 deaths a year owing to medical error. If it were correct, one in 10 of all US deaths, or a third of inpatient deaths, would result from ‘medical error’.
In fact, recent studies of inpatient deaths using medical review suggest a preventability rate of around 3.6%, meaning about 25,200 US deaths annually are potentially avoidable – a 10-fold lower figure.